It’s a term we hear often nowadays, and one that has taken on an untold number of definitions. So, what exactly is “self-care”? Is it an exclusively selfish pursuit as the detractors say, or is there much more to this concept than treating yourself?

What Is Self-Care?

In actuality, self-care is a crucial and somewhat complex set of guidelines and goals all with the intention of bettering the person in question—emotionally, physically, and psychologically. While self-care can indeed manifest in the relaxing, indulgent embrace of a nice face mask or spa session, the real self-care happens daily, and isn’t always as pretty as we might hope. Still, it’s important to treat self-care as a real and integral part of making your way through the world. But how is this achieved? How does one begin the journey to self-care?

 

Get Ready to Say No

This tenet of self-care applies to various settings, and is a great way to establish boundaries in all aspects of your life. While diet and other habits are certainly part of this equation, interpersonal relationships and experiences also benefit from this empowering action. Saying “no” is not about limiting your experiences; in fact, saying no to toxic relationships, or even just events and other social obligations you’d rather not attend, can free up some much-needed temporal and emotional space.

Eliminate Negative Self-Talk

Does the idea of a self-care routine make you cringe with embarrassment? Don’t think you deserve to take time out of your day for yourself? It’s time to rethink things; negative self-talk in any capacity is reductive to your progress as an individual and ultimately benefits no one. Constant self-imposed negativity is a type of “selfishness” that results in no personal development, while positive self-care will actually make it easier for you to be emotionally open to helping others achieve their goals.

Set Challenging but Achievable Fitness Goals

Of course, a significant part of self-care does concern the muscles, skin, and bone that keeps us going from day to day. In a self-care context, there is no room for setting unachievable exercise goals—or for failing to set any. Looking to get fit? You don’t need to sign up for an expensive boutique gym membership to benefit from some physical activity. Instead, assess where you’re at with your fitness level, and determine which exercises and activities are most appealing to you. From here, you can build a steady program that will develop over time—and that won’t injure you in the process. It’s also important not to compare your fitness routine to others, as this will inevitably make you second-guess your progress.

Take a Frank and Supportive Look at Your Diet

Diet is a tricky subject for a lot of people. Aside from individual dietary restrictions and preferences, food is expensive, and not everyone has time to cook three steady meals per day. As a result, self-care in this arena means recognizing a few specific areas where you think you can improve, and actually following through with them. This might mean cutting out red meat, moving to smaller portions, or making meals at home instead of going out. Like your fitness routine, it doesn’t have to mean overhauling every aspect of your eating—take things one step at a time.

Set Boundaries With Your Devices

This is where the term “self-care” can potentially take a dark turn. In recent years, social platforms like Instagram and devices like Fitbits have begun to make self-care a competitive endeavor, causing comparison and obsession in areas supposedly related to self-improvement. One study analyzed the effects of the popular Fitbit on 200 women, with results showing that 59% felt “controlled” by the device. This is why we recommend putting some necessary space between you and your devices, especially when it comes to achieving your self-care goals.

Get Some Sleep

The role proper sleep plays in self-care is both significant and magnanimous. Failure to receive the recommended 7–9 hours of shut-eye for adults is known to contribute to and/or exacerbate mental and physical illness. Having trouble winding down? It’s time once again to set your phone aside, disconnect yourself from troubling blue light exposure, and let your mind recalibrate.

More Where That Came From!

Although there is no single method for beginning a proper self-care routine, you can use the above guide to inform your progress and remind you of what’s really important. So take a look inside yourself, and get ready for the first day of the rest of your life.